In this week’s reading, Moshe gathers the people together — and talks to them about Shabbos. “For 6 days you will do your labor, and the seventh will be holy for you, a Sabbath of Sabbaths to G-d… And you will not pass a fire through all your settlements on the Sabbath Day” [35:2-3]

In most of the world, at present, our special mitzvah is to not gather with others, but to stay in our homes. Why? In order that we not pass a deadly fire through our settlements…

As always, a challenge offers an opportunity — and in this quarantined Shabbos there are several.

First and foremost, time with family is a precious thing. News reports claim that hundreds of people emerged from quarantine in China — and ran to divorce court. Spending weeks together was too much for them to bear.

On the other hand, someone told me that he and his wife had caught several social media posts from people who said with no sports to watch on TV, they ended up having a conversation with the very nice person on the other couch… who turned out to be married to them. While it’s terrible that it took a global virus for them to rediscover their spouses, it’s certainly a positive outcome.

When it comes to Shabbos, this week, we are all together, separately. What do I mean? It doesn’t matter if you have a synagogue down the block, or if the nearest one is miles away. Either way, you have no reason to leave the house. The entire Shabbos is about you and whomever you are with, in self-imposed quarantine.

If you have never done Shabbos before, and thought you needed to be with others in a different neighborhood, here is your chance. If you decide to make Shabbos at home, you’re doing what everybody else is doing, in communities all over the globe.

So, whatever your situation, I would like you to consider making this a special Shabbos. Prepare food in advance, bake challos (there are many recipes online), plug in a hot water urn or put a kettle on the stove, and you’re ready to make Shabbos like the rest of us. And let’s be honest, 25 hours without coronavirus news will be very good for the soul! Just be sure you have lots of reading material (printing Divrei Torah from our website will help).

To whatever extent we make this Shabbos special, it will be a tremendous merit for all of us as we face the challenge of COVID-19. But honestly, I have a personal reason to ask you to consider this, as well.

The son of a neighbor is becoming a Bar Mitzvah, and he will be unable to celebrate in his family’s synagogue, as it, like all others in the area, is closed. He always impressed me as a serious young man, even when the family moved in a few years ago. I imagine he was very well prepared to read the Torah this week, and I’m sure he’s very disappointed.

If you would consider doing something special this Shabbos, whether to light candles Friday night, to make a special meal with your family, to study some of the laws of Shabbos at the meal, sing Lecha Dodi with your family, or simply to observe the full Shabbos, uninterrupted — whatever it might be, I’m sure this young man would be delighted to learn that you did this in honor of his Bar Mitzvah, and because we are all facing this challenge together.

If you would like to let us know what you have chosen to do, or have done, please share a comment (before or after Shabbos, not during!). I will personally share your letter with him!

May we share many happy occasions — in person!

Good Shabbos,

Yaakov Menken